Sir Alex: an impossible act to follow?
Speculation over the man to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United has reared its head regularly over many years and has been brought to the fore again in the last few days with a report in the Daily Mail that one of Sir Alex’s previous charges, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has expressed interest in the job.
Of course, we still don’t know when "The Very Special One" will deign to relinquish the post, and when he does, it will, no doubt, ultimately be his decision and his alone.
However, plans for his successor are, according to the Mail, in place and they quote Ed Woodman, United vice chairman, as saying that the list of names drawn up to replace Fergy is being kept under lock and key at Old Trafford.
One thing is for sure: the Scot will be a difficult act to follow, and amongst the many qualities required will be gaining the immediate respect from his staff, experience of winning trophies, ability to deal with top players and a ruthless streak that would ensure that he put the club first in all cases.
Here are 10 candidates, in my preferred reverse order, for what some would consider to be an impossible act to follow.
Hughes: must do better!
10. Mark Hughes (age 49)
Hughes is one of three former players in my list and is a sentimental rather than serious choice. He seems to have so much potential as a manager but has failed to set the world alight so far.
If Sir Alex stays on for a few more years and Hughes experiences an epiphany as a manager in that time, he has a chance.
Will United shop for Klopp?
9. Jurgen Klopp (age 45)
The Borussia Dortmund manager won the 2011-12 Bundesliga against all odds with the biggest ever points total ever in the German league.
He also won the German Cup in the same season and, as I write, his team currently sit at the top of their highly competitive Champions League group containing the champions of Holland, England and Spain.
Klopp is relatively young, and his five years in charge at Dortmund show he has staying power.
Has Pardew got what it takes?
8. Alan Pardew (age 51)
He's a long shot for sure, but Pardew’s success with the Toon Army has impressed.
It would be good to have an English manager, but his lack of experience managing at the very top level would go against him.
Might be too nice as well!
Too much Mr. Nice Guy?
7. Martin O’Neill (age 60)
A few years ago he would have been a lot closer to the top of my list, but his age and recent lack of success (and jobs) would seem to rule him out.
He also appears to have quite a sensitive disposition, which could be a distinct disadvantage in such a pressured job.
O’Neill’s fatherly demeanour would prove advantageous when dealing with the more temperamental players but, ultimately, it may be too big a job for him to handle.
Is Larry White, Mr. Right?
6. Laurent Blanc (Age 47)
Another United "Old Boy," Larry White, as he was affectionately known at Old Trafford, has the bearing, the playing experience at the very top level and a good command of the language that would stand him in good stead at the Theatre of Dreams.
In two seasons at Bordeaux he led them to second and first place and went on to manage France to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Euros, where they had the misfortune of being drawn against Spain.
He resigned after the Euros and is currently unemployed.
Could it be the Italian's job?
5. Antonio Conte (age 43)
Last season he led Juve to the league title, remaining unbeaten throughout. The only domestic game they lost was the Cup Final.
He, like Jose Mourinho, is reputed to be obsessed with the tactical side of the game, although, unlike "The Special One," he is attack-minded, which would definitely suit the United mindset.
Is the Baby-Faced Assassin moving in for the kill?
4. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (age 39)
The Molde manager became a much-loved character as a player at Old Trafford and would be a very popular choice initially.
Whether he would deliver is another question.
He has already been on the coaching staff, running the reserve team from 2008-11, so he knows how the system works.
One year of being the top man in what can only be considered a footballing backwater is probably not the most impressive claim for one of the top jobs in football. He must be hoping that Sir Alex prolongs his career for a few more years so he can develop his CV further in the meantime.
Is this a Special smile?
3. Jose Mourinho (age 49)
Jose is many people's favourite for the job.
The Special One has dropped many hints over the past few years that he covets the job and, during his time at Chelsea, was often seen to curry favour with the present incumbent.
There is obviously much mutual respect between the two and, my feeling is, the Portuguese would probably be Sir Alex’s choice to succeed him.
His pedigree, standing in the game and personality seem to be a perfect match.
My only concern is his tactical philosophy, which doesn’t necessarily align itself to United’s cavalier past.
However, he has succeeded at Real, who have a similar heritage to United, so why not?
Bye bye Barca, hello United?
2. Pep Guardiola (age 41)
Guardiola could be the perfect fit if Sir Alex left at the end of the season as the feeling is he is ready to re-enter the fray after his current sabbatical.
However, the Red Devils would probably face severe challenges from Manchester City and Chelsea, both of whom seem to suffer from an acute form of attention deficit disorder when it comes to persevering with their managers.
Come to think of it, if four years is all he could stand at Barcelona, maybe one of United’s main current rivals would be a better bet for Pep!
Will Moyes follow Rooney to Old Trafford?
1. David Moyes (age 49)
Moyes would be my first choice for many reasons.
He appears to be hewn from the same Glaswegian granite as Sir Alex, adopting a no-nonsense approach to his football and commanding the utmost respect from his players and most other senior figures in the game.
He has worked miracles on a limited budget, showing an innate ability to bring the best out of a squad that doesn’t immediately impress on paper.
My only reservation would be his lack of experience at a top club.
However, with the experienced backroom staff that Sir Alex would bequeath him, this is not an insurmountable problem.
He has proved with Everton that he is a "stayer," and if United want a man for the long term and hope to avoid the type of unsettling period that followed Sir Matt Busby’s reign, Moyes could be the man.